On April 10, 2008, Pope Benedict XVI announced the appointment of Rev. Msgr. James D. Conley as auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Denver. Denver Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., ordained him as the new auxiliary bishop on May 30, 2008, the solemnity of the Sacred Heart, at Denver’s Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. As auxiliary bishop, he assisted Archbishop Chaput in the pastoral care of the archdiocese.
On Sept. 8, 2011, the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops announced that due to the appointment of Archbishop Chaput as archbishop of Philadelphia, Bishop Conley was named apostolic administrator of the Denver Archdiocese. An apostolic administrator is appointed by the pope to lead a diocese during the “sede vacante” (vacant see) period between bishops. Thus, Bishop Conley was entrusted with the authority of the diocesan bishop to teach, sanctify and lead Catholics residing within northern Colorado until Bishop Samuel Aquila of Fargo, N.D., was installed as archbishop of Denver on July 18, 2012. With the installation of Archbishop Aquila, Bishop Conley resumed his former title of auxiliary bishop.
On Sept. 14, 2012, Pope Benedict XVI appointed Bishop Conley as the bishop of the Lincoln Diocese in Nebraska. Bishop Conley was installed as the ninth Bishop of Lincoln on Nov. 20, 2012 in the Cathedral of the Risen Christ in Lincoln.